Very Merrytime Cruise, Disney Dream, part 3
One of the first things you will notice when boarding the Disney Dream for the Very Merrytime cruise, are the decorations. There is a very large Christmas tree loaded with ornaments, festive decorations and even a large gingerbread house that smells like the holidays! The sheer size of the gingerbread house is absolutely impressive. When we were admiring the house, cast member were serving hot chocolate (OR warm chocolate for the kiddies) next to the gingerbread house.
In addition to Disney Cruise merchandise, there is also holiday themed merchandise in the gift shops. We purchased a Christmas tree ornament for our keepsake.
The first night on the ship, there is a tree lighting ceremony with carolers. We were a little late for the tree lighting, however we were able to catch the end but didn't have the best viewing spot. I would recommend arriving about 15 minutes early if you would like a great view of the ceremony. Here are some pictures of the tree!
The following night at 10:15pm, we watched the "Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball", featuring the Cruise Director, and the Holiday Snowbells welcoming the arrival of Santa Claus. We got there a bit early and secured a spot on the balcony above. This spot was excellent. The performances had a bit of an old fashioned feel good vibe to them. Many of the characters were there in their holiday outfits, and there were special guests, Anna and Elsa! If you were not able to snag a ticket for their meet and greet, this was a great way to see them up close. They even made it snow in the Atrium!
Santa was available for a meet and greet the next day. There was a "good list" set out for the kids to sign. It was adorable. I loved looking at all the kids names and their handwriting.
Castaway Cay is also decked out in Holiday decorations. Right when you get of the ship there is a giant Christmas tree as well as other holiday touches throughout the island. Make sure to stop for the wonderful photo ops as you exit the ship!
There was so much to do on the ship, that we missed some of the holiday actives offered:
Very Merrytime Cruise, Disney Dream, part 2
"Meet and greets" start as soon as you enter the ship and continue throughout. As compared to one of the Disney theme parks, the cruise lines makes it very easy to see lots of characters. Most of the meet and greets involve standing in line, but the lines move fast and weren't an issue. Some of the meet and greets require tickes -- they are free and first come, first serve.
I recommend that you get your tickets as soon as you board. Your daily navigator, which you receive day one at check-in, includes information about where to get tickets.
The two princess meet and greets (Anna & Elsa, and a group Princesses event) were the only two that required tickets on our cruise. We were able to get both tickets at the same place, same time. Without the tickets, we would have missed these two very popular meet and greets..
Meeting Anna and Elsa on the ship is an amazing experience -- and the line is much quicker than meeting them at the parks. They met at the Animator's Palate where TV screens were showing scenes of Arendale -- too fun!
The Animator's Palate restaurant is off the beaten track, unlike the meet and greets in the Atrium -- and less likely to be turning away disappointed children without tickets.
The meet and greet for Anna & Elsa is a must! Sure, an autograph and a picture is requiste, but interacting with the characters creates an experience your child will always remember.
As you can see in the photos below, my daughter said she was freezing in Arendale! She also told the sisters a joke. "Why can't you give Queen Elsa a balloon? Because she will Let it Go!" Anna and Elsa loved the joke and told her they couldn't wait to tell the joke to Olaf!
The Princesses meet and greet, as mentioned, also required a ticket. Our event, in the Atrium, featured Belle, Cinderella, and Rapunzel -- this may change from cruise to cruise. It is very interactive -- my daughter danced with Cinderella! Do not miss this -- it was wonderful -- magical
Schedules for character appearances are posted throughout the ship, on the daily navigators and on the Disney Cruise Line app. They generally meet for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes is up, a cast member will stand at the end of the line. At that point, if you get behind the cast member, you will be in line for the next scheduled character meet and greet. It is a good idea to get there about 10 minutes early for the character you want to meet.
As you can see, we saw quite a few characters (not all of them) and it really didn't take up too much of our time. The characters we did not see were Peter Pan, Captain Jack Sparrow, Captain Hook and Smitty.
And of course Mickey and Minnie in their many costumes. We loved the holiday sweaters and formal wear. Oh yeah and Santa was there!
A few tips for character meet and greets:
Very Merrytime Cruise, Disney Dream, part 1
Our first sailing with the Disney Cruise line was for the Very Merrytime Cruise on the Disney Dream. We chose a 4-night cruise with stops in Nassau and Castaway Cay (pronounced: key).
We flew, the day before the cruise, from Boston to Orlando and stayed at the Hyatt Regency located inside the airport. Since we were traveling with a small child and concerned about the possibility of inclement weather in Boston, this extra day was worth the expense. It helped keep the stress down, no worries of delayed flights, and jump-started our vacation.
Disney offers transportation from the airport to the cruise terminal for $70 per person round trip. Disney does not generally offer transportation from hotels (unless it is a Disney resort) however sine the Hyatt is part of Orlando International, this is an exception. The Hyatt will give you all info needed to catch the Disney transportation. This would be paid for through the Disney Cruise reservation. Before checking out of the hotel, you attach the Disney luggage tags that are provided with the service. Simply put your tagged bags right outside your hotel room door the rest is like magic: next time you see your luggage it will be on the cruise ship in your stateroom!
The hotel was great and the rooms had balconies that looked down into the airport terminal.
There was even a beautiful pool however the water was freezing! Being from Boston and it being December, my daughter couldn't resist a quick swim. What is best about the pool is you can watch the planes taking off and landing!
Inside the cruise terminal there are characters doing meet and greets! (The lines are really long for the characters so a better option would be to wait until you get inside.) There is also a model replica of one of the ships which is really neat. It is extremely detailed.
The entrance to the ship is a hidden Mickey!!!!
As soon as you enter the ship there are plenty of photo ops. The coolest part of entering the ship is the cast members announce the entrance of your family by name! "Welcome aboard, the Lucci family!" Talk about feeling special. This definitely set the mood for a fun trip.
The festive Sail Away party begins before you set sail. Some say it is the official start of the Disney Dream experience. If it rains, the Sail Away party moves to the Atrium. We had light rain but, happily, they kept the Sail Away party outside. Here are some pictures from the Sail Away party. Can you tell my family was feeling the magic?
One thing I loved about cruising on the Disney Dream was the ship's horn, which is first heard during the Sail Away party to announce our send off. Disney uses familiar melodies such as "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" and "When You Wish Upon a Star" -- if you can, imagine that sound in the form of a mighty ship's horn. In the world of Disney, it really is "all about the details."
Another cool detail you will notice is that the ship uses colors inspired by Mickey Mouse like the yellow lifeboats. Disney had to get special permission from the U.S. Coast Guard to substitute the regulation orange with the Disney yellow. The yellow lifeboats represent Mickey's boots!
Be sure to pack a day bag as you will not have immediate access to your room and luggage. We boarded by 12:30, our stateroom was ready around 4 pm, and our luggage arrived about an hour later.
The day bag allowed us to enjoy the festivites that start as soon as you board. We wanted to take advantage of the onboard pool -- so our day bag was packed with swimsuits, sunblock, and a change of clothes.
My family of three had an inside stateroom. Despite being one of the smallest categories (11A), we felt cozy and comfortable. Every room includes a bathtub which is unique for cruise lines and another example of how since Disney caters to families.
Our stateroom was on Deck 9, and in the middle of the ship -- conveniently located by the elevators and staircase. We never had to walk down a hallway to get to our room, and it was surprisingly quiet. I would highly recommend this part of the ship.
Try to get a room on the highest floor possible. In general, you will feel less motion and, in our case on Deck 9, we were just two flights up to the pool on Deck 11. Elevators can get backed up on cruise ships. It's great to have quick access to the stairs.
There are 3 categories of inside staterooms: 11A ( Deck 8, 9, 10), 11B (Deck 5, 6, 7), and 11C (Deck 2). Our stateroom category sleeps 4 and is 169 square feet. It is furnished with a queen size bed (comfy!), a convertible sofa, and an upper pull-down bed (unique to some of the staterooms that sleep 3-4) . Our daughter loved her pull-down bed and decorated ceiling -- Peter Pan and Wendy flying through the night sky.
Another exciting feature of inside staterooms are the Disney "virtual portholes." A camera mounted outside the ship is connected to a live feed straight to your virtual porthole. If you keep your eyes peeled, you may see a Disney character zoom by!
We had family join us for the cruise from Santa Fe and they were able to get a room right across the hall from us. They had a veranda stateroom, so we were able to visit and take advantage of the great views!
Amara Lucci McShain
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